VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Pekka Rinne and Roberton Luongo figured to play prominent roles in the Western Conference semifinal series between the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks.
No one was more involved than Rinne, the Predators goalie who was named first star of the contest even though his team lost 1-0 in the series opener Thursday before a sellout crowd at Rogers Arena.
“He played outstanding all game,” center Mike Fisher said. “He was so solid all game and gave us a chance late. He’s a big reason why we’re 1-0 and why we had a shot.”
Rinne and Luongo represent two of the three finalists for this year’s Vezina Trophy, which is presented annually to the league’s top goaltender.
They faced off four times during the regular season and allowed 12 goals between them as the Predators and Canucks split the season series.
“When you play the top goalies, you want to match them,” Rinne said. “You want to always win the goaltending matchup. You think about it a little bit and you prepare yourself to be at that level and hopefully I can back that up.”
He allowed the game’s only goal but outplayed Luongo, who faced 10 fewer shots on the night. It was the fourth time in 13 career playoff appearances he held an opponent to just one goal, but the first time he lost when he did so.
“We need to do a better job putting more traffic in front of him,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “Without a doubt, he was their best player.”
• Odd call: Each team was called for five penalties in the game but the one that stood out was one for clipping against Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard late in the second period.
Clipping in hockey is when one player uses any part of his body to make contact with an opposing player below the knees. In this case, the referee ruled that Ballard did exactly that when his hip check flipped Nashville forward Jordin Tootoo.
Vigneault chose not to comment on the call.
“I’ll let you guys figure it out,” he said.
Tootoo indicated that he was satisfied with the call but made it clear that he does not consider things to be even.
“It’s a seven-game series and I’m sure I’ll have my opportunities to get him back,” Tootoo said. “As for now, we just have to put this one behind us.”
• Facedown on faceoffs: Nashville lost 22 of 25 faceoffs in the first period and 40 of 66 (61 percent) for the game.
Most dubious among the practitioners of that particular skill was Fisher, who won just four of 18. The exception was Jerred Smithson, who won seven of 10.
“That’s not just the centers, it’s the wingers helping out,” coach Barry Trotz said.
• Quote of note: It’s so easy to be yelling on the bench, ‘Yeah come on, let’s do this.’ But in situations like that it takes someone just to shut up, go out there and do it.” – Smithson, on the Predators’ lackluster effort in the early part of the game.
• Briefly: Tootoo and Patric Hornqvist were the only Nashville players with more than one shot through the first two periods. They had two each. … Hornqvist had two penalties – one for roughing and one for tripping – the first time since Nov. 13 he had two minor penalties in a game. … Chris Higgins, who scored the only goal, appeared in just one of the four regular season meetings between the teams. He did not have a shot in that one.